The Meaning of Jonah 1:3 Explained

Jonah 1:3

KJV: But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the LORD.

YLT: And Jonah riseth to flee to Tarshish from the face of Jehovah, and goeth down to Joppa, and findeth a ship going to Tarshish, and he giveth its fare, and goeth down into it, to go with them to Tarshish from the face of Jehovah.

Darby: But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish, from the presence of Jehovah.

ASV: But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah; and he went down to Joppa, and found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.

What does Jonah 1:3 Mean?

Verse Meaning

Tarshish was the name of a great-grandson of Noah through Noah"s son Japheth and Japheth"s son Javan ( Genesis 10:1-4). From then on in the Old Testament the name describes both the descendants of this man and the territory where they settled (cf. 1 Kings 10:22; 1 Kings 22:48; 1 Chronicles 7:10). The territory was evidently a long distance from Israel and on the Atlantic coast of southwest Spain (cf. Jonah 4:2; Isaiah 66:19). [1] It also contained mineral deposits that its residents mined and exported to Tyre and probably other places ( Jeremiah 10:9; Ezekiel 27:12). Since the Hebrew word tarshishu means smelting place or refinery, the Jews referred to several such places on the Mediterranean coast by this name. [2] Similarly several towns along the coastlands of English-speaking nations today bear the name "Portland." Therefore it is probably impossible to locate the exact spot that Jonah proposed to visit. The identification of Tarshish with Spain is very old going back to Herodotus, the Greek historian, who referred to a Tartessus in Spain. [3] This site was about2500 miles west of Joppa. In any case, Jonah sought to flee by ship from Joppa on Israel"s Mediterranean coast and to go to some remote destination that lay in the opposite direction from Nineveh. Joppa stood about35 miles southwest of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom. Nineveh lay about550 miles northeast of Samaria.
"Jonah the believer is disgruntled with his calling. (Whoever thought a missionary would be disgruntled-except a fellow missionary!)" [4]
Why did Jonah leave Israel? He evidently concluded that if he ran away God would select another prophet rather than track him down and make him go to Nineveh. By going in the opposite direction from Nineveh, as far from Nineveh as was then possible, Jonah seems to have been trying to get as far away from the judgment he thought the Lord would bring on that city as he could. In short, he seems to have been trying to run away from the Lord"s calling and to preserve his own safety at the same time. This is the only instance in Scripture of a prophet disobeying God"s call (cf. Amos 3:8 for the typical response).
However it was "the presence of the Lord" localized in the Promised Land, mentioned twice in this verse for emphasis, that Jonah sought to escape more than anything. Specifically it was God"s influence over him. He probably knew that he could not remove himself from the literal presence of the omnipresent God.
"To be a prophet was not necessarily to be a great theologian. God chooses whom he will, whether trained professional specialist or not (cf. Amos 7:14-15)." [2]0
There is a chiasm in this verse. It begins and ends with references to going to Tarshish from the Lord"s presence. In the center is another reference to going to Tarshish. This structure stresses the fact that Jonah defiantly repudiated God"s call.
Perhaps we can appreciate how Jonah felt about his commission if we compare a similar case. Suppose God called some Jew living during the Hitler regime to go to Berlin and prophesy publicly that God was going to destroy Nazi Germany unless the Germans repented. The possibility of the Germans repenting and God withholding judgment on them would have been totally repugnant to such a Jew. His racial patriotism would have conflicted with his fidelity to God just as Jonah"s did. [6]
"In this brief introduction to the book the reader learns three central things: (1) who Jonah was; (2) what Yahweh wanted him to do; (3) Jonah"s response. Thus are introduced the main characters of the story, i.e, Jonah and God; and the situation around which the story revolves, i.e, Jonah"s unwillingness to carry out a divine commission which he finds odious." [2]5
Many servants of the Lord throughout history have mistakenly thought that they could get away from the Lord and escape the consequences of His actions by changing their location. This book teaches us that that is not possible (cf. Psalm 139:7-10).
"It"s possible to be out of the will of God and still have circumstances appear to be working on your behalf." [8]
"An officer in an army may resign the commission of his president or king, but an ambassador of the Lord is on a different basis. His service is for life, and he may not repudiate it without the danger of incurring God"s discipline." [2]2

Context Summary

Jonah 1:1-16 - Fleeing From God And Duty
Jonah is mentioned in 2 Kings 14:25. He was clearly very patriotic, and did not despair of his country in its darkest days. This commission to Nineveh was therefore not to his taste, because he had no desire to see the great heathen city brought to her knees. Another century would have to pass before Isaiah and Micah would proclaim that the heathen world would turn to God, Micah 4:1; Isaiah 2:2.
Rather than go upon this errand of mercy, Jonah hurried down to the one seaport, that he might escape his duty. Sin is always a descent; we always have to pay heavily in tolls and fares when we take our own way instead of God's, and we must never reckon that opportunity implies permission.
Weary with excitement and travel, the prophet is oblivious to the weighing of the anchor. The disasters that block the way of disobedience are harder than our difficulties in performing God's bidding. Note the divine agency in our lives: the word of the Lord came; the Lord hurled forth a great wind; the Lord prepared a great fish. There were, in these heathen sailors, beautiful traits which ought to have abashed the prophet. Their prayer to their idols and their endeavor to save this stranger Jew are as instructive as remarkable. [source]

Chapter Summary: Jonah 1

1  Jonah, sent to Nineveh, flees to Tarshish
4  He is betrayed by a great storm;
11  thrown into the sea;
17  and swallowed by a fish

What do the individual words in Jonah 1:3 mean?

But arose Jonah to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Yahweh and He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish so he paid the fare and went down into it to go with them of Yahweh
וַיָּ֤קָם יוֹנָה֙ לִבְרֹ֣חַ תַּרְשִׁ֔ישָׁה מִלִּפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֑ה וַיֵּ֨רֶד יָפ֜וֹ וַיִּמְצָ֥א אָנִיָּ֣ה ׀‪‬ בָּאָ֣ה תַרְשִׁ֗ישׁ וַיִּתֵּ֨ן שְׂכָרָ֜הּ וַיֵּ֤רֶד בָּהּ֙ לָב֤וֹא עִמָּהֶם֙ יְהוָֽה

וַיָּ֤קָם  But  arose 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: קוּם 
Sense: to rise, arise, stand, rise up, stand up.
יוֹנָה֙  Jonah 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יׄונָה  
Sense: son of Amittai and a native of Gath-hepher; 5th of the minor prophets who prophesied during the reign of Jeroboam II and whom God sent also to prophecy to Nineveh.
לִבְרֹ֣חַ  to  flee 
Parse: Preposition-l, Verb, Qal, Infinitive construct
Root: בָּרַח 
Sense: to go through, flee, run away, chase, drive away, put to flight, reach, shoot (extend), hurry away.
תַּרְשִׁ֔ישָׁה  to  Tarshish 
Parse: Proper Noun, feminine singular, third person feminine singular
Root: תַּרְשִׁישׁ 
Sense: son of Javan. 2 a Benjamite, son of Bilhan. 3 one of the wise men close to king Ahasuerus of Persia. 4 a city of the Phoenicians in a distant part of the Mediterranean Sea to which the prophet Jonah was trying to flee.
מִלִּפְנֵ֖י  from  the  presence 
Parse: Preposition-m, Preposition-l, Noun, common plural construct
Root: לִפְנֵי 
Sense: face.
יְהוָ֑ה  of  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.
וַיֵּ֨רֶד  and  He  went  down 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: יָרַד  
Sense: to go down, descend, decline, march down, sink down.
יָפ֜וֹ  to  Joppa 
Parse: Proper Noun, feminine singular
Root: יָפֹו  
Sense: a town on the southwest coast of Palestine in the territory of Dan; became primary port of Jerusalem during reign of Solomon.
וַיִּמְצָ֥א  and  found 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: מָצָא  
Sense: to find, attain to.
אָנִיָּ֣ה ׀‪‬  a  ship 
Parse: Noun, feminine singular
Root: אֳנִיָּה  
Sense: ship.
בָּאָ֣ה  going 
Parse: Verb, Qal, Participle, feminine singular
Root: בֹּוא 
Sense: to go in, enter, come, go, come in.
תַרְשִׁ֗ישׁ  to  Tarshish 
Parse: Proper Noun, feminine singular
Root: תַּרְשִׁישׁ 
Sense: son of Javan. 2 a Benjamite, son of Bilhan. 3 one of the wise men close to king Ahasuerus of Persia. 4 a city of the Phoenicians in a distant part of the Mediterranean Sea to which the prophet Jonah was trying to flee.
וַיִּתֵּ֨ן  so  he  paid 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: יָתַן 
Sense: to give, put, set.
שְׂכָרָ֜הּ  the  fare 
Parse: Noun, masculine singular construct, third person feminine singular
Root: שָׂכָר  
Sense: hire, wages.
וַיֵּ֤רֶד  and  went  down 
Parse: Conjunctive waw, Verb, Qal, Consecutive imperfect, third person masculine singular
Root: יָרַד  
Sense: to go down, descend, decline, march down, sink down.
בָּהּ֙  into  it 
Parse: Preposition, third person feminine singular
לָב֤וֹא  to  go 
Parse: Preposition-l, Verb, Qal, Infinitive construct
Root: בֹּוא 
Sense: to go in, enter, come, go, come in.
עִמָּהֶם֙  with  them 
Parse: Preposition, third person masculine plural
Root: עִם  
Sense: with.
יְהוָֽה  of  Yahweh 
Parse: Proper Noun, masculine singular
Root: יהוה 
Sense: the proper name of the one true God.